Monday, April 21, 2014

Meatless Monday: Being Mindful of the Food We Eat

It’s Meatless Monday and Earth Day Eve — the perfect day to think about what and how we eat. 

Raising and transporting the food we eat requires huge amounts of natural resources. Yet, in 2010, over 30% of the total food supply in the U.S. was wasted. That’s 133 billion pounds of food, or 141 trillion calories—a staggering 1,249 calories per capita per day according to Eliza Barclay in the NPR blog The Salt! The EPA estimates that in 2011 Americans threw away 36 million pounds of food — from uneaten leftovers to spoiled produce. Clearly wasted food = wasted resources, but food that is landfilled also breaks down to produce methane, a greenhouse gas. Food waste accounts for the largest percentage of waste going into municipal landfills — 21%!

Whether we are vegans, vegetarians, or omnivores, each of us can take some steps to bring these numbers down. Here are a few ideas:

As you eat, be mindful of the resources need to grow your food, of the farmers who raised it, and the energy consumed to get it to you. The high cost of raising beef has received a lot of press, but have you ever considered how much water it takes to raise the strawberry? An infographic in Mother Jones makes it clear that every bite of food is a precious commodity.

Do what you can to reduce the carbon footprint of your food. 

  • Try growing some of your own by starting as small as you like – say with an herb garden on your windowsill.
  • Support your farmer’s market.
  • Consider joining a CSA

Do what you can to cut down on your food waste.

  • Check what’s in your fridge before heading to the store.
  • Plan your meals ahead and shop with a list.
  • Buy just the quantity you need in the bulk section.
  • Eat your leftovers.

Convert your friends

Together we can make a difference.

Happy Earth Day!

On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

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